Wood Pellet Prices

This page answers frequently asked questions about wood pellet prices.

How many pellets do I need per heating season?

A typical house in New Hampshire heating entirely with wood pellets would burn five or six tons of pellets in a season. Needless to say, this is not an exact answer to the question above.

The U.S. Energy Information Agency's most recent Residential Energy Consumption Survey (2009) estimates the average household in New England used 91.2 Million British Thermal Units (MMBtus) per year for heat. That's the equivalent of 658 gallons of fuel oil or 5.53 tons of wood pellets.

Quality wood pellets at 5-10% moisture content have a heating value of about 16,500,000 British Thermal Units (Btus)/ton. Number 2 heating oil has a heating value of about 138,500 Btu/gallon. Propane has a heating value of ;91,333 Btu/gallon. Therefore one ton of wood pellets is equal to about 120 gallons of Number 2 heating oil or about 180 gallons of propane, a conversation table is located on EIA's website.

Regardless of the source of your heat, how well your home is insulated, the efficiency of your heating system, and how warm you keep your home will determine how much heat you use and how much you will pay for it. An energy auditor can help you size a system appropriately and should be able to provide estimates of costs.

Finally the Department of Energy Wood Heating Page reviews types of wood heating systems, consumer information, and other considerations for maximizing the benefits of a wood heating system.

Are there any tax credits or rebates?

There is a federal tax credit of up to $300 available for energy efficient biomass stoves available through the Energy Star Program. Fact sheets and other information is also available on the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association website.

The New Hampshire Department of Energy's Sustainable Energy Division provides a rebate payment of 40% of the purchase and installation price of high efficiency bulk-fed wood-pellet boilers and furnaces. The residential program individual rebates are capped at $10,000 and commercial rebates are capped at $65,000.

Operators of large systems may benefit from working through the Public Utilities Commission to obtain Renewable Energy Credits(RECs) through the Class I Thermal Renewable Energy Certificate Program created as part of New Hampshire's Renewable Portfolio Standard. Because of costs involved in the application process and setting up meters to monitor energy use to receive credits, typically it only makes financial sense for high-volume users (commercial scale systems around 250kW or 840,000 Btu's or higher) to take advantage of this option. Details are available at the PUC Thermal Renewable Credits webpage.

What do I need to know about pellet quality?

Consumers should understand that not all pellets are created equal. Low quality pellets can lead to higher amounts of ash, lower the life of the stove, and produce less heat per bag. Companies' product messaging can be confusing and there is currently no pellet quality standard for the industry so pellets can vary greatly in ash content, moisture content, and heat output (BTU's).

The Pellet Fuels Institute (PFI) has developed a voluntary "PFI Standards Program" which certifies pellets that have been manufactured to certain quality standards. PFI-certified bags have a PFI label on the front of the bag. More information about the PFI certification can be found on the PFI website.

The conventional wisdom that hardwood is better than softwood is not necessarily true for wood pellets. Hardwood is traditionally viewed as better for home heating because it is a denser wood which means that it has more energy to burn per volume. However, when wood is chopped up, dried, and pressed into pellets, the density of pellets is roughly the same regardless of the original source of the wood. One bag of softwood pellets has roughly the same density/weight (and therefore heating power) as one bag of hardwood pellets. In some cases, softwood pellets may have more BTUs per bag because of resins that have higher heating values.

How cleanly a pellet burns and how much ash is created is probably a more important performance factor thought these qualities can be difficult to determine. The pellet-making process and the level of impurities in the wood (hard or soft) both impact the amount of ash that will develop. Certifications like the PFI stamp of approval can help consumers understand the quality of the pellets they are purchasing.

What are the environmental impacts of heating with wood?

Many consumers are interested in wood pellets because they are a local, renewable resource with a lower carbon footprint than fossil fuels. Details are available at the following sites: